Chuck Ross on July 11, 2019
- A former Trump campaign staffer sued President Trump in February, accusing him of forcibly kissing her on the campaign trail in August 2016.
- But Trump’s lawyers released cellphone video of the incident, which they say shows that the ex-staffer, Alva Johnson, was lying.
- The 15-second video shows Trump lightly kissing Johnson on the cheek while the pair are among a group of people on a campaign RV in Florida.
President Donald Trump’s lawyers released a 15-second video Wednesday they say shows that a former Trump campaign staffer lied when she claimed the Republican forcibly kissed her on the campaign trail in 2016.
Alva Johnson, who worked on the campaign’s voter outreach team, sued Trump on Feb. 25 for battery and discrimination based on her race and gender. Johnson, who is black, said Trump forcibly kissed her in a campaign RV during a stop in Florida on Aug. 24, 2016.
Charles Harder, a personal attorney for Trump, said cellphone footage of the exchange debunks Johnson’s salacious claim.
“The Video proves that Plaintiff has no legitimate claim for battery. It also proves that Plaintiff and her counsel have lied repeatedly to this Court,” wrote Harder, whose court filing Wednesday seeks to block Johnson’s request to depose Trump.
Politico first reported on the Harder filing.
In the initial suit, Johnson alleged that Trump “grasped her hand and did not let go.”
“[H]e tightened his grip on Ms. Johnson’s hand and leaned towards her. He moved close enough that she could feel his breath on her skin,” the lawsuit reads.
Johnson said she “suddenly realized that Defendant Trump was trying to kiss her on the mouth, and attempted to avoid this by turning her head to the right. Defendant Trump kissed her anyway, and the kiss landed on the corner of her mouth.”
Johnson’s story was picked up by numerous news outlets, including The Washington Post and New Yorker. MSNBC’s Chris Hayes also interviewed an emotional Johnson a day after the lawsuit was filed.
Hayes drew comparisons between Johnson’s allegations and the infamous “Access Hollywood” tape released on Oct. 7, 2016 that shows Trump speaking of grabbing women by the genitals and forcibly kissing them.
Harder said that video taken of the Johnson-Trump exchange shows “an innocent moment between a dedicated campaign staffer and the candidate for whom she was working.”
The video, which was recorded by Brian Hayes, a campaign volunteer, shows Trump among a group that included Johnson, campaign workers, law enforcement officers and former Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi.
As Trump appears to be speaking to an unidentified man, Johnson is heard off camera telling Trump that she had been “away from my family for eight months for you.”
Trump turns toward Johnson and places his hands on her shoulders, while kissing her lightly on her right cheek.
Johnson smiled and said, “Eight months for you.”
“We’re going to get you in the White House and I’ll see you in February,” she adds.
Johnson, who sought a job in the Trump White House, confirmed during a deposition Monday that the incident on video is the one she described in her lawsuit.
The video demonstrates that Johnson was not attacked and did not feel threatened by Trump, Harder said.
“If Plaintiff had been attacked, as she alleges, one would expect a far different response than telling him she’ll help him get elected President of the United States,” said Harder. “That is the response of a person who is moved in a positive way by her candidate’s show of appreciation and recognition of her dedicated service to his campaign.”
Johnson’s lawyer disputed Harder’s assertion that the video exonerates Trump.
“We are gratified and pleased that we finally have proof what Ms. Johnson has been alleging in this lawsuit,” Hassan Zavareei, a lawyer for Johnson, told Politico. “It is basically exactly what Ms. Johnson has been saying.”
He said besides a few small differences, the video is “basically identical” to what Johnson described in her suit.
He acknowledged the exchange with Trump did not “look dramatic,” but added, “That does not mean it wasn’t a serious battery.”
“It’s a battery because she didn’t want it to happen,” Zavareei said. “It’s not an appropriate thing to do to another person.”